Sweet with your salty? Savory with your sugar? We’re known for pushing the gustatory envelope around here, and Oregon treat makers are no exception.
Take Salt & Straw, for example. The ice cream empire now with three Portland locations — plus its whimsical spin-off, a soft-serve scoop shop called Wiz Bang Bar at Pine Street Market, downtown — continues to twist tongues with its wildly unique creations. In January, Salt & Straw spun new flavors such as Oregon Black Truffle, Fois Gras Oatmeal Raisin Cream Pie and Happy Birthday Elvis — a nostalgically indulgent peanut butter bacon cookie dough with a ribbon of marionberry jam.
Cool Moon Ice Cream and Ruby Jewel also offer some of the finest small-batch, handcrafted ice cream in town. And what better time to find some of the region’s best bean-to-bar chocolate? Take a craft chocolate tour of Portland to explore and fully appreciate the true bitter yet addictive taste of quality chocolate, unmasked by artificial sweetness. Alma Chocolate, for instance, makes a to-die-for caramel sauce that comes in four dreamy varieties: salted, habanero, lavender and whiskey. And Alma’s latest tea collection, with Portland’s Steven Smith Teamakers, includes tea-infused cream and honey caramels in three proper flavors: Lord Bergamot, Masala Chai and Smoked Assam.
If you like your treats bottled, take time to appreciate McMenamins Distillery’s Coffee Liqueur, said to taste like a chocolate brownie. Their Phil Hazelnut Liqueur is made from 100-percent Oregon-grown filberts, just enough sweetness to make their clean, unaged wheat whiskey go down a little too easily. And their Morning Dew is a brandy made with pinot noir grapes grown in the Dundee Hills, with just the right balance of cherry and red berries. Find true bliss with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
In Southern Oregon, Lillie Belle Farms brings chocolate and cheese together with the only-in-Oregon Smokey Blue Cheese Truffles, made with help from the award-winning Rogue Creamery. For a good dose of heat with your sweet, Lillie Belle’s “Do Not Eat This Chocolate” bar is a mix of dark and milk chocolate heated up with ghost chile, aji amarillo and chile arbole. At Face Rock Creamery, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the silky richness of their “Vampire Slayer” garlic cheddar and fromage blanc cheese, not to mention their famous cheese curds. Cleanse your palate with a scoop of Umpqua Dairy ice cream at the Creamery for good measure.
But always, always save room for pie. Some of the finest bakers in Oregon are cranking out truly exquisite masterpieces every day. Don’t miss the vegan spinach and feta pastie at Pacific Pie Company in Portland; the fruit tarts at Sweet Life Patisserie in Eugene (which can be made without eggs, dairy and gluten); the raspberry rhubarb pie at Sisters Bakery in Sisters; the bacon jam empanadas at Sweet Wife Baking in Baker City; and the famous black molasses bread at Otis Cafe in Otis on Highway 18, just northeast of Lincoln City. It’s worth the trip.